Resolved to Sober Up.
The media at large tends to focus on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or get fit or whatever. In academics, I see a lot of “submit X many grants” or “read Y many papers” or “finish Z many dissertations”. These are fine resolutions and I hope everyone achieves their goals. Good luck in 2016!
But I see another set of resolutions every new year. AA meetings swell to the rafters every January. Then they gradually deflate over the next month or two. It’s an exponential fall-off. Most people don’t go to a second meeting. Of those that do, most don’t go to a third. Very few stick around for the 90 days we recommend you go every day when you’re new.
There’s a lot of disillusionment that AA doesn’t cure you. That it’s not easy. That people like us can’t learn to drink normally. We are broken, and not fixable. We can only find a new use for ourselves. We flourish in dry soil, while hungering for wet. That feels unfair and impossible in the beginning. It seems like we’re doomed to misery.
We are not. I hope, if nothing else, that reading this blog has revealed that it is possible to have a normal, happy life of freedom and utility while being in recovery from alcoholism. I have all the challenges and difficulties of a normal person, and all the tools of a normal person to cope with them, except the relief of a drink at the end of a hard day. But I have additional tools as well, that normal people generally lack, to confront life’s steep and muddy terrain.
If you find yourself, today, January first, 2016, looking to relinquish your addiction and enter a new life of freedom and peace, I can help you. It’s a difficult road, but a simple one. There are no complex turns and secret passageways. There is no trick. No concealed wisdom. It’s all very, very simple.
Go to meetings. Don’t drink in between. Find someone in the meeting who seems to have what you want. Ask them how they got it. What they did to get where they are. They will tell you. I can tell you.
When I started, almost eight years ago, I drank a bottle of 80 proof liquor a day. Sometimes more. I wore dingy red sweatpants every day. I was miserable, and depressed, and constantly hungover. With the headaches and diarrhea and nausea that entails. I hated myself and the people who were supposed to love me hated me. Even while they loved me. I didn’t work. I didn’t take care of my home. I drank. I drove drunk every day, often with a child in my car. I hid alcohol and tried to disguise my drinking. I alienated anything that threatened my access to alcohol. I was dying. I didn’t care.
Now, I have a great career. I have a well-maintained home. I have a kind and loving relationship. I have friends who respect me and family who admire me. I contribute to this society, to my community. I am leaving a legacy of scientific and engineering productivity. I am fit and healthy, having taken up fitness as a pass-time.
Nothing I’m doing is remarkable. Many people, in sobriety and among the normal folks, are more accomplished that I am. Some are less. It’s not a contest. What matters is that I am happy, and I know how to negotiate the formerly-bewildering wilds of life. I can show you how to do the same. So can millions of others, in the meeting rooms and church basements and coffee shops where we congregate.
I can do that because of the work I did in Alcoholics Anonymous. Because I’ve been continuously sober for 2,877 days. Because I worked the steps with a qualified sponsor and took his direction. I did what I was told, letting go of my selfish need to be right, to be in control, to be in charge. I found the people who had solved the problem I was faced with, and I did what they told me to do to solve my own.
It worked. It can work for you. If you drink like I drank, then you can recover like I recovered. I don’t know if it’s the only way. I don’t care. Nor should you. If you’re standing where I stood, then the only thing that matters is deciding to live, or deciding to die. I know the road to life. And in the beginning, I – and my brothers and sisters in sobriety – we can carry you.
The way to freedom is not a fight. It is not a battle. It is not a war. The way to sobriety and freedom is a way of peace. Let go. Give up. Fall down. Don’t worry about landing hard. We’ve already set the net.